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Artists Series Presents Anonymous 4

The Grace Goudy Distinguished Artists Series celebrates its 25th anniversary season with a performance by the internationally acclaimed vocal quartet, Anonymous 4, Friday, Dec. 5, at 8 p.m. in Hudson Hall at Willamette University. They will perform The Cherry Tree Carol, a program of medieval songs, carols and ballads for Christmas.

Renowned for their haunting a cappella selections and virtuosic ensemble singing, the all-female quartet has performed throughout North America, Europe and Asia, and is a much-anticipated guest at major international festivals. Their music has been called mesmerizing and unearthly.

"Hearing Anonymous 4 is about as close as you're going to get on this earth to hearing angels sing," wrote Roots 66.

The quartet was founded in 1986 to sing medieval music -- mostly sacred, mostly by anonymous composers, and almost entirely unfamiliar to the public -- without instrumental accompaniment.

Little written music survived the Middle Ages, and few contemporary musicians know how to read it. Piecing together compositions of people like Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century nun, takes musical, literary and historical scholarship, along with educated guesswork, and so the quartet's unique re-creation of medieval music gained them a rapid and loyal following.

But no one, least of all the singers themselves, expected the fame that followed the release of their debut recording in 1993. An English Ladymass zoomed onto Billboard magazine's bestseller chart and was named Classical Disc of the Year by CD Review. Since then, Anonymous 4 has achieved a popularity unheard of for a medieval music ensemble: Almost all of its CDs have reached Billboard's Classical Top Ten list, and the group has sold nearly two million CDs worldwide. Their long string of accolades includes Editor's Choice Awards from Gramophone, ClassicsToday.com's highest rating, Amazon.com's Top 25 Classical CDs list for 2005, and two consecutive years as one of Billboard's Top Classical Artists of the Year. Their CD American Angels, featuring 18th-20th century folk psalmody, hymnody and gospel songs, enjoyed a 76-week run on Billboard's Top Classical Chart.

Anonymous 4 has appeared on numerous radio and television programs, including NPR's All Things Considered, Performance Today and Weekend Edition, as well as St. Paul Sunday and Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion. The quartet has been featured as the voice of Joan of Arc in an oratorio and invited to perform with symphonies and orchestras.

In recent years the ensemble has branched into contemporary music and Americana. Current members include Ruth Cunningham, Marsha Genensky, Susan Hellauer and Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek.

Anonymous 4 will present a free master class with Willamette's choral ensemble, Voce Femminile, Friday, Dec. 5, at 11:30 a.m. in Hudson Hall. The public is invited.

The concert will be in Hudson Hall in the Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center on the Willamette campus, at 900 State Street in Salem. Tickets are $20 for adults and $12 for students and seniors (plus a service charge), and are available at the Pentacle Theatre Ticket Office at 145 Liberty St. NE in downtown Salem, or by phone at (503) 485-4300. For concert information call the Willamette Music Department at (503) 370-6255. Visit www.anonymous4.com for links to CDs, recordings and group information.

The Distinquished Artists Series continues Sunday, Feb. 8, with a recital by renowned pianist Xu Zhong.

11-24-2008